I managed to get my hands on a Chumby a few weeks back, but due to a heavy workload, I wasn’t able to play with it until recently.
For those unfamiliar with the Chumby, it’s essentially an internet enabled alarm clock. While that description doesn’t do justice to the Chumby’s full capabilities, it does quickly conjure to mind the Chumby’s basic form factor and suggests where a Chumby would sit in your home or office. I’ve now had the chance to spend some quality time with my Chumby, both as a user and as a developer.
Figure 1. The Chumby is about the size of the average alarm clock.
The Chumby’s magic comes from the ability to easily install customizable, internet capable widgets directly from the web. These widgets are generally similar to the types of things you would have installed on your OSX Dashboard or in your Vista whatever-the-hell-they-call-it. The current Chumby widget selection is limited, and runs the gamut from the obviously useful (weather, time, photo display) to the clearly useless. However, the potential here is enormous and I expect to see many great widget’s appear if Chumby Inc. plays it’s cards right.
What makes the Chumby of interest to folks like myself is that it’s powered by Adobe Flash Lite. While Flash Lite hasn’t quite set the mobile market on fire, it’s a fantastic platform for devices like the Chumby. Developing widgets for the Chumby is pretty much the same as developing a standard Actionscript 2/Flash 8 SWF (with a few shortcomings like no bitmap level access, no high quality image scaling, etc.). Chumby Inc. provides an active forum with very responsive moderators, a not-quite-comprehensive Wiki, and a collection of sample files to help widget developers along.
The first thing I did when I starting using my Chumby was to add a bunch of widgets onto it. The second thing I did was remove almost all of those widgets. The two that remained were the NOAA weather widget and the Flickr Slideshow widget. While the Flickr Slideshow widget is perfectly functional, there are a bunch of things about it that I do not like. For example, it scales down all of the photos to fit the screen, leaving large amounts of unused screen real estate. It also prominently displayed the Flickr logo at all times, making for a rather unattractive photo display. So I set to work creating my own slideshow which would work to correct these minor shortcomings.
Thus was born Mniml Slideshow. It currently lives in the limbo category called Widget Laboratory while it awaits approval from Chumby moderators. You can find it directly here: http://www.chumby.com/guide/widget/Mniml%20Slideshow%20%28Flickr%29.